This week on The Shift, Shane Hewitt and I talked about Valve’s new Steam Deck OLED, the Invincible sci-fi adventure game, the 2023 Game Awards nominations, the state of web privacy policies, and Meta’s Verified program for Canadian small businesses.
Technological World for November 15, games: Nifty Steam Deck OLED, clever sci-fi adventure the Invincible, Game Award nominees
Valve’s got a new Steam Deck portable computer, you can explore a strange planet in the Invincible, and the Game Award nominations are out.
Valve’s new Steam Deck is a big upgrade
Valve’s got a new Steam Deck, just in time for the holidays.
The Steam Deck OLED has, as the name suggests, an OLED screen, which makes the new handheld computer thinner, lighter, and extends the battery life by up to 50%.
The screen is HDR-enabled, too.
Most of the rest of the technical specs are the same as in the original Steam Deck but the OLED model has larger hard drive space and WiFi 6E for faster wireless connectivity.
With the new hardware, the OG models have been priced to sell.
Here’s the lineup (prices in Canadian dollars):
- Steam Deck 64GB LCD: $439
- Steam Deck 256GB LCD: $499
- Steam Deck 512GB LCD: $559
- Steam Deck 512GB OLED: $689
- Steam Deck 1TB OLED: $819
In Canada and the U.S., there is a limited edition translucent Steam Deck OLED with a 1 TB hard drive for $859.
The new Steam Deck OLED is available to purchase on November 16 starting at 10:00 a.m. PT.
The Invincible delivers thought-provoking sci-fi adventure
Based on a novella by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, The Invincible is a compelling and mysterious adventure set on a fascinating planet.
You play as Yasna, an astrobiologist, seemingly the only person on planet Regis III and tasked with uncovering what happened with the other explorers who were on the planet before you.
There’s no combat here, just opportunities to explore and discover and consider. Your choices are logged and change the path of the story you reveal. One perk of the game is that your particular story is documented as a comic book, so you can look back at the entire narrative when you’re done.
And you can also go back and replay the game while making different decisions, and create an entirely different story.
Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 each have 8 nominations for the Game Awards
Nominees for the 2023 Game Awards were revealed on Monday. Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 picked up eight nominations, including Game of the Year.
Other Game of the Year nominations went to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
Games developed by independent studios nominated for Best Indie Game are Cocoon, Dave the Diver, Dredge, Sea of Stars, and Viewfinder.
The general public is encouraged to vote for the games they would like to win.
Nominees are chosen by juries selected for their expertise who submit ballots with their top five choices, and winners are, according to the website, “determined by a blended vote between the voting jury (90%) and public fan voting (10%).”
The event will broadcast live on December 7 at 4:30 p.m. PT on all the channels you can imagine, including Discord, Twitch, YouTube, and others.
Technological World for November 15, consumer tech: Surprise! Privacy policies are long and not very readable
Research by NordVPN supports what we’ve all known: privacy policies are too long and too difficult to understand.
According to the research, it would take someone more than 40 hours to read the policies of the 96 websites Canadians “typically visit in a month”.
An assessment of the policies using a common readability index – Flesch Reading Ease Score – determined that most are very difficult to read, requiring a university degree.
These policy documents are important, too, because they govern what a website can and can’t do (will and won’t do) with your information.
Given that most of us are unlikely to read privacy policies, especially those that are long and difficult to read, one suggestion by NordVPN is to search policies for what they call, “red flag keywords” like “‘sell’ and ‘sold,’ indicating that your data may be sold to third parties. Also look for words like ‘partners,’ ‘affiliates,’ and ‘third parties’ with whom your data might be shared or sold to. Lastly, look for words ‘may’ and ‘for example,’ because they might give away the website’s malicious intent regarding its users’ data (as in ‘might analyze your content, for example, your emails’).”
Technological World for November 8, games: Mario and friends are back in Wonder, Quebec wilderness adventure Kona II: Brume, and your new daily puzzle challenge, Puzzmo
Explore a world of wonder with Mario and friends, explore the Quebec wilderness in Kona II: Brume, explore all sorts of puzzles with Puzzmo.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder a world of delights
The latest Mario game is astounding. So much of what’s here is the same. It’s a two-dimensional, side-scrolling platformer in which you run, jump, and avoid enemies in an attempt to get to the finish line.
But, as with so many Mario games that came before, Super Mario Bros. Wonder manages to transform something the same into something, well, wonderful.
The developers at Nintendo assembled Mario Wonder did two things that contribute to this transformation.
The first is in deciding to make the game so that younger and beginner players can have as much fun as everyone else.
So the cooperative play is completely cooperative. You can’t push other players off edges or into enemies in Mario Wonder. The only time that characters even contact each other is when one of them is Yoshi, and they are giving a ride to another character.
Yoshi is invincible, too, as is Nabbit, and while this benefit means that they can’t use power-ups, but beginners won’t mind if it means they can keep up.
The second difference in Mario Wonder is in how the idea of wonder is executed. While the individual levels are side scrolling, the main world is semi-open. You collect Wonder Seeds to open up different parts of the map, and in each level, one of those seeds is hidden in an area that only reveals itself when you’ve found the Wonder Flower.
Pick up that flower and the level transforms into a psychedelic romp that would not be out of place in Sgt Pepper or the Magical Mystery Tour: Piranha Plants launch into a song-and-dance number, a herd of Bulrushes chase you in rolling waves. Collect the Wonder Seed at the end and the level returns to normal.
Power-ups include some of the usuals like the Super Mushroom and Fire Flower and some new ones including an Elephant Fruit (use your trunk to swat enemies, break blocks, or spray water) and a Drill Mushroom (great for underground levels).
And along the way you’ll collect badges that grant bonus skills and abilities like special moves (Fast Dash, Parachute Cap, Dolphin Kick) and passive effects (Coin Reward, Coin Magnet). Some badges provide powerful boosts – Jet Run, Invisibility – but must be earned by completing challenges.
You and up to three friends can play on the same Switch, choosing from characters that include Mario and Luigi, Peach and Daisy, Toad and Toadette. And the game supports online play, too.
With bright colours and a crazy weirdness, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a game the entire family will enjoy.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is available now for the Nintendo Switch. Rated everyone.
Kona II: Brume casts Quebec for supernatural thriller
Brume is a synonym for mist or fog. It’s derived from French, where it also refers to the winter solstice and to a being in a confused state. It’s a perfect subtitle for this asmospheric adventure game.
Developed by Parabole, an indie studio in Quebec, and published by Plaion, Kona II: Brume is set in the 1970s. In the first game, detective Carl Faubert was hired to find out who was vandalizing the mansion of an industrialist in Northern Quebec. The sequel begins with Carl on the run, still unclear about what’s going on in the village and surrounding wilderness.
You need to manage a number of things to survive in Brume, including your body temperature, batteries for your flashlight, and ammunition for your weapons. The threats are varied and some aren’t quite what they seem at first. Because there’s something going on in this part of the world. And Faubert is falling right into it.
You can opt to have a narrator describe what’s going on, if you want, and that comes with a glimpse into the thoughts of the detective you have inhabited. For me, having that narration provide context to the various storylines that you uncover, and the characters at the heart of them, reminded me of classic television detective shows like Rockford Files and Magnum, PI.
Faubert documents his investigation in a notebook, and you’ll occasionally want to pull out your instant camera to take photos of the things you’re observing. It’s what a good detective would do.
Kona II: Brume is available now for PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Rated teen.
Puzzmo is a new daily puzzle challenge
Zach Gage is the guy behind puzzle games like Knotwords and SpellTower, and his new thing is Puzzmo, a daily collection of puzzle games that has an interesting way of getting players.
Each day, keys to the site are awarded to the first 500 people to solve a puzzle. At that site is the rest of the day’s puzzle bonanza that includes things like Really Bad Chess, SpellTower, Typeshift, Wordbind, and Flipart.
Once you’ve gotten through the door you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the site from then on.
And you can subscribe to get access to the archive and leaderboards. $40 USD gets you two logins for a year, for you and a friend, say. Or that same price gives one person a lifetime membership.